Carlos Sainz believes the Ferrari's ability to match McLaren at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix is indicative of the improvements made over the winter.
The Scuderia will arrive at Imola for the first of two home races on this year's schedule off the back of a promising start to the season, with Sainz finishing eighth, just two places behind team-mate Charles Leclerc.
Whilst Sainz recounted his ease in overtaking the Ferraris as a McLaren driver last year during the Maranello-based team's slump, the Spaniard used that experience as a yardstick for the improvements made on the SF21.
"It is encouraging because I remember that with that car [last year's McLaren] I passed Charles fairly easily, how big was the difference between the McLaren and the Ferrari and how close I was to overtaking [Daniel] Ricciardo at the end [in Bahrain]," said Sainz.
"I had much better pace than Daniel there towards the end of the race, I was catching him at more than half a second per lap.
"There are positive signs, encouragement, a big step compared to last year, and now it's a matter of keep finding the details, keep working hard in Maranello, keep improving."
Whilst signs of improvement have been shown, Sainz is under no illusion that the introduction of radical new aerodynamic regulations for 2022 will impact Ferrari's ability to continuously develop across the campaign.
"The car is certainly a very good step," he added. "Now we want to take the next steps, but this year is going to be more focused on next year.
"But I'm encouraged. I'm happy with what I've seen, with my feeling with the car for the first race, and I can see a positive step."
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.